JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Gunmen shot reggae star Lucky Dube in front of his children in one of South Africa’s highest-profile murders, uniting political rivals in calls for a crackdown on violent crime.
Dube, 43, was killed in an apparent botched carjacking on Thursday evening in a Johannesburg suburb. Police are searching for three suspects, police spokesman Eugene Opperman said.
“They allegedly tried to take his vehicle, but then shots were fired and he was fatally wounded,” Opperman said.
Police said he was dropping his son off when the attack took place. Another of his children was in the car.
The murder of South Africa’s biggest-selling reggae singer cast a shadow over the national mood a day before the country’s rugby union team face England in the final of the World Cup.
President Thabo Mbeki said his countrymen should work together to cut crime in South Africa, which has one of the world’s highest murder rates.
“Even as we prepare to celebrate the victory of the Springboks we must also grieve the death of an outstanding South African and, indeed, make a commitment that we shall continue to act together as a people to confront this terrible scourge of crime, which has taken the lives of too many of our people -- and does so every day,” he said.
CRIME “OUT OF CONTROL”
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said the murder showed crime was out of control in South Africa.
“The circumstances surrounding his murder again illustrate that violent crime in South Africa is out of control, and that the government’s remedies to address this scourge have failed,” DA parliamentary leader Sandra Botha said.
The murder rate jumped 2.4 percent between April 1, 2006, and March 31, 2007, with 19,202 murders recorded. The number of rapes, carjackings and assaults also remained alarmingly high.
Dube recorded more than 20 albums and had shared a stage with Sinead O‘Connor, Peter Gabriel and Sting.
The singer won over 20 awards locally and internationally. His first album, released in 1984 with the title “Rastas Never Die”, was banned by South Africa’s apartheid government.
Dube’s record company said the murder was senseless.
“Lucky wasn’t just big in South Africa, he was big in Africa and the rest of the world where he had a huge fan base. He was a fantastic ambassador for South African music,” said Ivor Haarburger, chief executive officer of Gallo Music.
The police chief of South Africa’s Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, has hand-picked a squad of seven detectives to track down the killers.
“He’s got a lot of confidence in this team, who will do everything possible to identify and arrest those responsible for this,” Opperman said.
Additional reporting by Bate Felix